Sep 19, 2014
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May 2014 Archive for 100% Grass-Fed

RSS By: Randy Kuhn, Beef Today

Our family farming history began with my great-great-... (nine generations ago) grandfather Johannes. He, his wife and three children left Saxony, Germany, on April 20, 1734, aboard the ship St. Andrew, mastered by Capt. John Stedman. They landed at Philadelphia on Sept. 22 and eventually settled our family’s first "New World" farm near Society Run in Frederick Township, Montgomery County, Pa., in 1743. Pig farming was our family’s specialty until the mid 1950s. A lot has changed since then. Our BQA cow–calf operation includes 100% grass-fed registered Red Angus, Hereford and purebred Beefalo; 30 to 35 pastured Duroc and Spot pigs; 100 Freedom Ranger broilers; and 90 Golden Comet and Buff Orpington layers. We organically maintain 80 acres, comprising 15 acres in rotational pastures, 15 acres in tillable cropland, and alfalfa/mixed grass hay on the balance. We have never used chemical pesticides or herbicides on our pastures or hay fields. We are not a "certified" organic farming operation, but we prefer the natural/organic approach to help promote sustainability.


May 20, 2014

 AH HA!  You Looked!!


Now that I have your attention, and apparently you don't heed warnings, lets get started with this weeks discussion about Grazing Alfalfa Management

Grazing alfalfa requires top-notch management to ensure optimal stand persistence and animal performance. As with any high-value crop, greater economic return is generally achieved with a higher level of Management.


Several factors affect stand persistence in grazed alfalfa. While some of these factors are similar to mechanically harvested fields, others are unique to grazing.


Management considerations include,

1) proper soil site selection

2) fertility management

3) insect pests

4) season of use

5) appropriate grazing management.


Grazing management for alfalfa persistence can take 2 distinctively different avenues. The 1st is based on continuous stocking with a flexible stocking rate and is most appropriate for grazing tolerant cultivars.

The 2nd approach (and in my opinion, the most important), is to use rotational stocking to regulate extent of defoliation and length of rest period. Management flexibility is also required in this type of system to allow different degrees of defoliation and regrowth depending upon performance objectives. With "optimal" growing conditions, alfalfa may be re-grazed with only 20 to 25 days of rest while environmentally stressful conditions may require rest period of 40 days or more. Typical mid-season rest period are in 28 to 35 day range.


Rotational Stocking

Rotational Stocking uses the rule of thumb that grazing animals need to have daily access to forage that is approximately 4% of their live weight (2.5% intake, 0.5% trampling loss, 1% buffer). This figure can be adjusted up if animals require more Dry Matter Intake (DMI) due to size and/or milk production, if animals will receive supplements (dry free-choice hay) during periods of low production.


Complementary forages

Alfalfa in the vegetative stage may be very high in degradable protein and low in fiber. Even though we may consider this to be very high quality forage, it may actually produce disappointing animal performance. Including grasses with the alfalfa in the pasture may enhance livestock performance. While pure alfalfa hay may produce better results than alfalfa-grass hay mixtures, the alfalfa-grass mixtures often produce better animal performance than pure alfalfa. This basic difference may be due to grasses in a pasture being grazed at much less mature stages than the same grass as a hay crop. Grasses with rapid regrowth potential such as orchard-grass, fescue, or ryegrass are better suited for pasture mixes with alfalfa than are slower regrowth grasses such as timothy or smooth brome-grass.

Companion grasses also benefit the animal through reduction of bloat potential and reducing potential mud problems. Some non-traditional forages such as crabgrass and quack-grass which are not popular as companion grasses in hay systems work well with alfalfa in grazing situations. Grazing alfalfa greatly increases the flexibility of management and opens broader horizons for livestock producers.

Understanding Women & Cattle

May 11, 2014

 Understanding Cattle & Women?


   Understanding why cattle select certain forage species or certain plants/weeds within a given species is about as well understood as why women need so many shoes when they only have two feet and why they need company to go to the ladies room when out with friends?!


   Cattle and forage interactions are complex. Just like women!  And I’m sure there are plenty of Cattlewomen that are puzzled about us Cattlemen and why we do what we do on a daily basis!  Defoliation or grazing patterns are dependent on factors such as the amount of time cattle are allowed in a specific area to graze, the time of season the forages are grazed, species of forages and length of the growing season in your area.


   When pastures are grazed two or more times, initially un-grazed grasses or weeds are less likely to be

grazed in following rotational grazing periods.  Preferred forage species are consistently consumed more intensively and frequently than less preferred species regardless of the grazing schedule or stocking rate.


   Grazing schedules and stocking rates may have little effect on the height at which forages are grazed.  Intensity and frequency of grazing tend to be greatest when plant growth is most rapid.  An example would be Alfalfa (a cool season legume), in the spring and fall.  The intensity and frequency of grazing increase linearly as forage allowance decreases in the fall after a "Killing Frost".





   Plant response to grazing is dependent upon the degree and frequency of grazing, and the stage of plant maturity.  Recovery of the forages will depend upon the amount of green leaf and stem area that remains after grazing, growing conditions, and competition from adjacent plants/weeds.  If soil moisture and air temperatures are not favorable for plant growth, little or no recovery will occur like what happened here in the North-East last season.  If the forages become dormant before stems and leaves are replenished, late season overgrazing reduces plant vigor more than early season over use.  When favorable growing conditions occur, rate of recovery increases as the amount of remaining plant increases.  Competition from un-grazed adjacent plants and/or weeds may reduce recovery even if favorable growing conditions do occur, especially when grazed plants have been over-grazed. While uniformly heavy grazing (MOB Grazing), across all species will reduce competition, the desirable effects of MOB grazing must be balanced against undesirable effects on your cattle, pasture/paddock stability, watershed protection, and aesthetic values (the way the pastures look).


   Proper utilization of most forages is removal of 50% or less of the present, current year leaf and stem tissue by weight.  A simple procedure can be used to develop a visual perception of percentage forage utilization. Clip the current year growth from random bunches of your forages at the ground level. Wrap the samples with string or tape. Balance each sample on your finger. The point of balance is the height at which 50% of the leaf and stem tissue would be removed.  Clip the sample at this point and balance each half to estimate heights for 25 and 75% utilization.  Proper utilization will cause little reduction in root growth and plant vigor. Grazing in excess of 60% will cause dramatic reduction in amount and depth of root growth.

Pay attention, this might be on the test?

May 04, 2014



The Feeding Value of Pasture


   The feeding value of a forage can be defined as the product of available nutrients contained in the forage times the amount of forage consumed (voluntary intake). Leafiness and stage of growth are factors that will affect the feeding value of plants.  High leaf content is associated with a low proportion of cell wall constituents and a high proportion of cell contents.  The main effect of advancing maturity in grasses is an increased proportion of cell wall and a reduction of cell contents.


   Feeding value will also vary within the same grazing season and among forage species. Among the climatic variables, light and temperature are the most important, followed by moisture which most of us in the Northeast have more of than we need at this critical planting time of the year!  Normally, animal production will depend on the ability of the forages to provide energy, provided that protein, minerals, vitamins, and water are consumed in sufficient amounts to sustain the type of production sought.


The chemical make-up of your pastures


   From a nutritional stand point, your pastures/forages can be divided into organic acids, soluble carbohydrates, crude protein, fats, and soluble ash and hemicellulose, cellulose, lignin, cutin, and silica.

The cell contents are usually highly digestible and readily available in your cattle’s rumen.  On the other hand, the availability of plant cell walls varies greatly depending on their composition and structure.  Maturity or stage of growth, species, and environmental factors can affect the chemical composition of your forages too.


   As plants mature, the proportion of their cell’s wall’s and their constituent fractions increase and the cell content fraction decrease.  Don’t ask, I just tell you what I’ve read.  I had to read that and re-read it a couple of times before I understood it too.  An exception is non-structural carbohydrates which increase in stem, stem base, and inflorescens.  Cool season grasses will normally have a higher cell wall concentration than legumes, especially in leaves, but a lower cell wall concentration compared to warm season grasses.  Don’t worry, there won’t be a test at the end of this blog.


Digestibility of pastures


   Measurement of digestibility is one of the first important steps in evaluation of forage quality.

Digestibility is the proportion of food consumed which disappears in the digestive tract and defines the nutrient availability per unit of feed intake.  Plant cell contents are almost 100% digestible.

In general, legumes are typically more digestible than grasses.


   Digestibility is relatively easy to measure but is probably not the most useful measure for predicting intake. This is because some "feeds" such as corn may be poorly digested and pass through the digestive tract relatively quickly, thereby occupying space for less time than a more digestible forage with a slower rate of passage.  During periods of scarce pasture availability, such as when seasonal pastures are dormant or "recovering" from grazing, supplementing cows with good quality haylage will tend to increase total DMI.  Supplementing your cattle with good quality haylage in addition to dry hay is also a great way to wean your cattle off of dry hay onto pastures before turning them out on lush spring forages and risking bloat!




   Cattle have a distinct grazing pattern, which includes a major meal beginning at sunrise, and again at sunset.

They do graze over-night, but nighttime grazing represents a small percentage of the total daily grazing time and contributes minimally to the daily forage intake.  Almost 85% of their total grazing time is spent during daylight and only 15% over-night.  This pattern of grazing is a foraging response to an increase of digestible nutrients in the forage at this time of day/night due to the photosynthesis process in plant leaves which occurred during the day and not at night.  Another important factor that can affect grazing behavior is air temperature.

The Extinction of 4H

May 01, 2014

 Disgusted & Ashamed!


   As our brown fields turn a blessed green, calves start hitting the ground and producers ready their hay equipment for 1st cutting in about a month,  4H kids are getting excited about the upcoming months and showing the animals they spend countless hours training for the judging ring at their local fairs.  Maybe.


   We breed and raise pastured pigs on our farm and we sell the 7 week old weaned piglets to other farmers that raise them for butcher hogs, we also raise a few to butcher weight to harvest and offer as cuts in our on-farm store.  But the best thing about selling piglets is the smile the 4H kids get on their faces when they come to pick out the one or two or three they want to raise and show at their local fair or fairs.  We also have a web-site for our farm and because of that we receive e-mail’s and phone call’s from producers from all over the country.  It’s astounding how far some folks are willing to travel for pastured pigs.  We’re located in Northeast Pennsylvania and we have folks contact us from as far away as Iowa!


   Earlier today I received a call from a gentleman in Southwestern New Jersey that’s looking for a few piglets for his kids to raise for 4H.  Unfortunately our most recent litter and the next one due in August are all spoken for.   It’s always disappointing for us when we can’t help our kids that want to learn how to raise livestock.  But that isn’t the worst of it.  This gentleman was telling me that they’ve been looking for the last few weeks and have even traveled to the New Holland, PA area and attended "4H Auctions" where they sell animals specifically for 4H kids to raise and show.  We charge what we feel is fair for our animals and obviously our customers feel its fair also or we wouldn’t be selling out every litter, but he told me that weaned piglets (approx. 6-7 weeks old), were going for $400-$600 each at auction!!  THAT’S CRAZY!!  It’s also ripping off/stealing from the next generation of hopeful farmers.


   Throughout the year, 4-H members hand feed and care for their animals, attend educational workshops, and complete a quality assurance training program. They learn about keeping animals healthy and completing successful livestock projects.  On the day of the 4-H Judging & Auction the projects end with the sale of 4-H project animals. After the auction, members look forward to the purchase of the next year’s project animal. 

Can you imagine the heartbreak of your child’s animal not even placing at the fair?  Than think about having spent $300 - $600 for one piglet, than having to care and feed the animal for 4-5 months.  If these insane prices kids & their parents are being forced to pay greedy producers continue, HSUS will be ecstatic because next year there won’t be any animal judging at your local fair because no one will be able to afford to purchase the animals!


   All this is, is taking advantage of a bad situation for personal monetary gain.  You might be asking, why?  Why are piglets sooooo expensive?  If you produce piglets, know someone who does or at the very least watch the evening news, you’ve seen that there is a virus that is killing millions of young piglets across our country.  In return this "scare" is obscenely inflating the cost of all pork products starting with the piglets.


   Here’s a little information about this virus that might be good for you to know as a consumer and/or producer.


  The virus is called Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea or "PED".  The USDA has confirmed that porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) has been identified in the United States for the first time through testing at the National Veterinary Services Laboratory. This is not a new virus, nor is it a regulatory/reportable disease. Since PEDV is widespread in many countries, it is not a trade-restricting disease, but rather a production-related disease. PEDV may appear clinically to be the same as transmissible gastroenteritis (TGE) virus with acute diarrhea.


   The virus is not a new virus as it was first recognized in England in 1971. Since then, the disease has been identified in a number of European countries, and more recently in China, Korea and Japan.  "This has become one of the most serious and devastating diseases our pig farmers have faced in decades," said Karen Richter, a Minnesota producer and president of the National Pork Board. "While it has absolutely no impact on food safety, it has clear implications for the pork industry in terms of supplying pork to consumers.


   In closing I’d just like speak directly to my fellow pork producers,  if you are participating in an 4H auction this spring, please do it for the right reason.  It’s for the kid’s.  Not for you and your wallet. 

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